The Warc Blog

Marketing to "happiness"

Posted by: Bob Deutsch, President, Brain Sells

Blog author

Happiness is a hot topic these days. Scholars have recently noted some non-intuitive dynamics as to what makes people happy, and, of course, Americans are always in the pursuit of happiness.

Marketers rarely, if ever, talk about happiness directly, but in designing digital offerings that promise an "experience," or when focused on building customer relationships, the covert subtext of most advertising should be the creation of the feeling of happiness.

31 March 2010, 11:21
FIFA’s Ticketing Blunder

Posted by: Eugene Yiga, Knowledge Manager, Synovate Laboratories

Blog author “2010 Ticket Prices Slashed”. That was the headline that caught my eye while waiting in line at the grocery store. And so, while the old lady up ahead decided to strike up a conversation with an evidently uncomfortable cashier, I read that front page story to find out what was going on. In it, I discovered a major opportunity FIFA missed.

Rather than get into the specifics of an insanely complicated system of seating categories and online allocations that work differently depending on how many tickets you want to buy, which games you want to watch, and whether you’re South African or not, I’ll use an analogy. Imagine the World Cup as an airplane that everyone wants to be on. The choices for seating are first class, business class, and economy class. (There are actually four categories in the FIFA system, but the concept is still the same.)

After a few rounds of ticket sales, FIFA realised the plane wouldn’t be full. The dreaded recession had reared its ugly head yet again by preventing scores of wannabe visitors from making a trip that (especially for those living in Europe) would be considerably longer and more expensive than the one to Germany in 2006. But what about all the extra business class seats reserved for those people? “It’s simple,” said one enthusiastic employee. “Let’s sell them at economy class prices!” Big mistake.

Much has been written about the pitfalls of discounting when times are tough and it seems the rules apply to events like this too. Passengers who already booked their tickets are fuming (one called the practice “grossly unfair”) because FIFA has effectively punished them and sent the message that it’s better to wait until the last minute next time around. They are understandably upset because those in economy class could have gotten more for the same while those in business class could have gotten the same for less. Still with me? Good

Here’s what FIFA could have done. Instead of cutting the price of business class tickets, why not “upgrade” those in economy as a reward for their foresight and loyal support of the beautiful game? And why not give those already in business class the option to upgrade to first class for a nominal fee or give branded hampers to those in first class who can’t go higher? If behavioural economics is anything to go by, the desire to reciprocate initial generosity could even make this work with those just bumped up from economy class.

Now the vacant seats in economy could be sold at prices slightly below the R140 they currently go for (just over €14). An entire campaign could be created about all the stupid things you could spend this amount on when it would make more sense to do so on the experience of a lifetime. They could integrate aspects of social media into their existing campaign by having users submit online video clips expressing how excited they were to know that “they’d be there”.

That way everyone would come out feeling as though they’d won. Right now, that’s definitely not the case. On supporter said, “We no longer know what to believe from FIFA anymore.” Fans feel cheated and that’s not good.

(For more, see 'Research on Advertising in a Recession', Journal of Advertising Research, Volume 49, No. 3, September 2009, pp.304-327)
30 March 2010, 06:39
Winners announced at REGGIEs and AME Awards

Posted by: Joseph Clift, Product Manager, Warc

Blog author

Pedigree pulled a "Hurt Locker" this week, beating a high-profile tie-in with movie blockbuster Avatar to win the top prize at this year's REGGIE Awards.

The Super REGGIE went to Catapault Action-Based Marketing's 'Crazy Pet Owners' campaign. A microsite promoted the premium dog food brand, incorporating online videos such as this 30 second spot, from TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles.

26 March 2010, 11:09
Coulrophobia sweeps 2010 ARF David Ogilvy Awards

Posted by: Joseph Clift, Product Manager, Warc

Blog author

As reported this morning on, the big winner at the 2010 ARF David Ogilvy Awards was the United States Postal Service, which scooped this year's Grand Ogilvy for its integrated 'A Simpler Way To Ship' campaign.

Along with a mailshot of over 20m direct marketing messages and a dedicated section on the firm's official website, the campaign included this TV spot (below), which has comprehensively "gone viral", gaining 130,000 YouTube hits so far and a lot of positive buzz.

24 March 2010, 13:56
Sucked into the FIFA Football Frenzy

Posted by: Eugene Yiga, Knowledge Manager, Synovate Laboratories

Blog author It seems like only yesterday. There I was, on Saturday 15 May 2004, stuck in my university dorm and frantically cramming for an afternoon exam. A roar erupted from the common room across the quad and champagne bottles began to pop. South Africa had just been chosen as host country for the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Eighty days from now, that dream will come to life.

When everyone began talking of tickets over a year ago, I was pretty nonchalant. The tournament felt too far away. Besides, I’ve never been particularly huge on sport so it didn’t matter much. So, how did I end up here, with double tickets to four games and desperate to get my hands on more? The answer, my friends, comes down to three traps I’ve fallen into, which Robert Cialdini discusses brilliantly in Influence:

1.    Expert Advice

We are more likely to act on the advice of experts, which explains why we opt for the skincare range recommended by dermatologists or the car Jeremy Clarkson raved about on Top Gear. And let’s not forget about the infamous Milgram experiment in which subjects inadvertently “tortured” other participants just because some guy in a white lab coat instructed them to do so. In my case, the expert came in the form of a colleague who’d painstakingly worked out the probable permutations to determine the “not to be missed” games. How could I argue with that?

2.    Peer Pressure

We often find ourselves compelled to do what others do if these are people we want to be associated with or already respect. Besides, it’s contagious and safe to do what everyone else is doing (be it in your choice of career or brand) rather than venture out on your own. So, I did what all my friends and family couldn’t stop talking about and bought tickets. If anyone still questions the efficacy of peer pressure, try explaining why a chunk of the Cape Town population deliberately has their upper incisors removed. Looking cool matters; being able to chew does not.

3.    Scarcity

“In order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.” – Mark Twain

Being denied something or feeling it will only be available in a limited quantity for a limited time makes us want it even more. FIFA managed to do that quite well by stressing the fact that the limited seats for this once in a lifetime experience could be sold out if we didn’t act fast. I’m sure you can think of many other examples including department store sales that never stop being for “a few days only” or the irrational exuberance (tulips, anyone?) that’s landed us in financial troubles time and again.


One question still on my mind after reading through this month’s special report in Admap is this: What about the ethics? We get noticeably upset when it comes to those in the context of neuroscience but nobody seems concerned about the far subtler tactics of behavioural economics.

Should FIFA and other companies be allowed to continue using these clever (and mostly legal) psychological means to get to their ends? Next we’ll have charities using targeted requests because we’re more likely to donate to people who share our names or added creativity in advertising crafted purely to prevent us from thinking too much. Should we do something then?

It’s a dangerous world out there and even us industry insiders who might consider ourselves immune should take care.

 (For more on behavioural economics, see last week’s post and Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes.)
23 March 2010, 08:55
'Love Distance' wins GRAND CUP

Posted by: Joseph Clift, Product Manager, Warc

Blog author

A Japanese viral campaign has won the top award at the third Intercontinental Advertising CUP, a global event organised by Adfest (Asia-Pacific), FIAP (Ibero-America), Golden Drum and ADC*E (Europe).

A total of 33 prizes were handed out at the ceremony, held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 18th. The GRAND CUP went to 'Love Distance', from GT Inc (Tokyo) for Sagami Rubber Industries.

22 March 2010, 10:43
SMWF 2010: Full Warc reports now up!

Posted by: Joseph Clift, Product Manager, Warc

Blog author

Earlier this week, I was at the Social Media World Forum Europe, hearing a range of presentations from advertisers, agencies and social networks.

Key insights from the 25 or so panels, keynotes and presentations are available here. One report deals with some of the general issues associated with social media, including its impact, its social use and what the future holds; the second report focuses on practical social media tips from clients including Speedo, Stella Artois and Talk Talk.

19 March 2010, 11:05
Dubai Lynx, Hive Awards handed out

Posted by: Joseph Clift, Product Manager, Warc

Blog author

Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai and Starcom MediaVest Group Dubai both won big at the 2010 Dubai Lynx Awards yesterday (March 17th).

The two agencies were named Agency of the Year and Media Agency of the Year respectively at the ceremony, held in the Dubai Media City complex. In all, 156 prizes were handed out, including eight grands prix.

18 March 2010, 10:20
Pre-testing with LEGS

Posted by: Left Field

Blog author

First a big thank you for the encouraging comments to previous posts– much appreciated.

I'm prompted to post once more on the subject of pre-testing by two recent events. One was seeing Duncan Southgate's fascinating presentation at the MAP 2010 conference, which was mostly concerned with viral viewing and how to pre-test for viral success. The other was re-reading David Penn's fantastic 2008 ESOMAR paper in the light of my recent exploration of the pioneering pre-testing work being done by Brainjuicer and Cogresearch (see my recent posts here and here).

17 March 2010, 10:07
Behavioural Economics, Neuroscience, and Beyond

Posted by: Eugene Yiga, Knowledge Manager, Synovate Laboratories

Blog author

Attention Shoppers!

Life is frantic, the economy sucks, and attention spans are at an all-time low. It’s no wonder companies are increasingly competitive when it comes to staying afloat. In order to do so, many have turned to branding. They realise it’s the only way to steal a spot in our hearts and minds (not to mention charge premiums for products sporting nothing more than logos their unbranded brethren do not).

But even with billions spent on marketing, not everyone is a success. Consumers queue for days on end to buy an iPhone but shun other “breakthroughs” like the Segway or New Coke. Birds in London are heard chirping the Nokia tune while 97% of Japan’s new products fail within the first three months. And Top Gun creates a 500% rise in Navy recruitment while the incessant brand cameos in Transformers do nothing but annoy us to bits. Something’s not quite right.

Research, We Have a Problem

Even though neoclassical economics has brought mathematical foundations to social sciences, the approach has been criticised for its reliance on faulty assumptions of a clean and static world of certainty, equilibrium, and ultimate perfection. But our minds don’t work in neat little files nor are the decisions we make always rational. We simply don’t have access to complete information and unlimited computational power. Life is far too complex.

The connections we make are messy and the decisions we make cannot always be explained in concrete terms. Why else would we knock on wood to avoid bad luck or prefer to have $15 today over $20 next week? Why else would we shop when we should save or smoke when anyone with half a brain knows it will kill? And why else would so many people spend hours in the sun working on a tan despite the risk of cancer and the certainty of one day looking like a wrinkled leather purse?

Most of our decisions are made using shortcuts simply because trying to pay attention to absolutely everything that happens to us all the time would be too much. So we go with Japan for electronics, France for cosmetics, or Germany for Cars. We only focus on what matters most to us at any point in time and don’t bother about the rest.

If you’d like proof, try spending the next day or so consciously looking out for anything and everything red. The colour’s all over the place! And no, it’s not because you somehow willed it into existence by employing the preternatural powers of your mystical mind. It’s simply because you chose to pay attention. You saw what you wanted to see. And unless this kind of peripheral and “subliminal” stimulation is strong enough to engage our senses, it might as well not exist.

We aren’t really accurate when it comes to explaining what we do because we either don’t remember (and guess) or we simply don’t know. And even if we do have an idea of why we do what we do, we might choose not to say so. We could give answers we think we’re “supposed” to give in order to be seen as responsible or smart. Plus our moods could also be affected by getting stuck in traffic or the researcher’s weird clothes. The only thing that always tells the truth is the part of ourselves we can’t control.

The Bad, The Ugly, and The Good

For those who feel nervous about companies using neuroscience to prod into our heads and control our thoughts, you’re not alone. In Buyology, Martin Lindstrom acknowledges the risk that these tools will be used to make us nothing more than slobbering Pavlov’s dogs in an Orwellian world:

“I predict that we’ll see more and more marketing based on fear in the years to come [because] the more stress we’re under in our world, and the more fearful we are, the more we seek out solid foundations. The more we seek out solid foundations, the more we become dependent on dopamine. And the more dopamine surges through our brains, the more we want, well, stuff.”

But neuroscience isn’t about making us do what we don’t want to. It’s about understanding why we do what we already do and ultimately taking back our power. It’s about companies no longer bombarding us with annoying adverts that overuse celebrities or sex when those don’t always work. It’s about new levels of creativity, products we want, and happier lives for all:

“A world in which you face the onslaught of advertising with a better understanding of what drives and motivates you, what attracts and repels you, what gets under your skin. A world in which you are not a slave to the mysterious workings of your subconscious, nor a puppet of the marketers and companies that seek to control it…. That is a world in which we, the consumers, can escape the tricks and traps that companies use… and take back our rational minds.”

(For more on neuroscience and
behavioural economics, see Integrating Qualitative Methods with Biometrics as well as the January and March issues of Admap respectively.)
16 March 2010, 11:01

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